In motion

It turns out that those neutrinos did not go faster than light after all. Researchers had not taken into account the fact that the atomic clocks on the orbiting GPS satellites used to measure the speed of the neutrinos were themselves moving with respect to the earth. Once that motion was accounted for, the apparent excess velocity disappeared.

So cause and effect were not, in fact, dismantled, the universe did not cease to make sense, and the last hundred years of perfectly consistent empirical confirmation of Einstein’s special theory of relativity was not contradicted. In the end, the edifice of reality as we know it did not collapse violently in upon itself into a steaming incoherent heap of quantum ruin, physics did not come apart at the seams, and clouds of electrons did not spontaneously fly out from their atomic orbits, thereby instantly vaporizing you, me, all galaxies everywhere, and even the very possibility of a future beyond this moment.

Whew!

The incident does make for a good metaphor though. We each spend our lives trying to make sense of the people around us, but we forget that we ourselves are in motion. You and I may walk along together for a while, but ultimately we are in different orbits. So when trying to make sense of the world, it’s good to trust your inner atomic clock, but try to remember that your mileage may vary. :-)

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